Pool Care Basics: The Essential Guide to Pool Maintenance
Ready to learn the basics of pool chemistry? POOLCORP Chemical Specialist Melissa Bushy explains it all in this 15 video showcase. Browse through the different topics to find lessons on each chemical as well as common problems and their solutions. Continue reading our guide below for the three main parts of pool care.
If you want to make sure that your swimming pool is clean and healthy, proper maintenance is a must. In this guide, we outline a few simple steps that should be part of your routine. This way, you can maintain a crystal-clear pool with ease and get back to relaxing! When it comes to pool care, keep in mind the three C’s of pool care: Circulation, Cleaning, and Chemistry.
- Run pool pump 8-12 hours per day
- Backwash or clean filter if pressure is above 10-15 psi
- Clean the skimmer & pump basket
- Keep jets facing circular and downward
- Brush walls, steps, ladders, low circulation spots daily
- Skim the surface daily
- Vacuum once a week or use automatic cleaner
- Test water 1-2 times per week
- Balance pH and alkalinity
- Maintain sanitizer levels
- Shock bi-weekly
To keep your pool looking great, you’ll need to keep your water moving and properly filtered, keep debris and “dead spots” cleaned up, and balance your water chemistry.
The first step to keeping your pool clean and clear is to make sure your water is circulating properly.
Pool maintenance starts with pool circulation because if your pool water isn’t moving, your pump isn’t pumping, or your filter isn’t filtering, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to keep your pool clean. This is because stagnant water is a breeding ground for algae growth.
There are several parts that make up your pool’s circulatory system. The skimmer, the pump, the filter, and the jets. If any one of these pieces is significantly impeded, your water quality will suffer. Here’s a short explanation of how a pool works to keep your water clean and circulating:
- Pump sucks water from pool through skimmer (usually a rectangular door)
- Water travels through pump into filter
- Filter cleans out particles that are making your water dirty
- Water is pushed back into pool through pool jets
Your pool pump is kind of like the “heart” of your swimming pool. The pump draws water through the filtration system, where it’s stripped of dirt, debris, and other impurities. From there, the clean water goes back to the pool.
Run the Pool Pump
Duration: 8-12 hours per day
In other words, the more you run your filtration system, the cleaner your water will be – and the less time you’ll have to spend scrubbing algae or balancing your water. If running your filter 24/7 isn’t realistic, aim to run your pool filter 10 to 12 hours per day. If you are in a warmer climate, you should run your pump a little more per day. This is why we suggest investing in a variable speed pool pump because they can run at a lower speed throughout the day, which saves money, energy, and makes less noise.
Backwash or Clean the Filter if Necessary
Frequency: When filter gauge reads about 10 psi higher than normal
If your pump gauge is about 10 lbs or more above the normal reading (usually 10-15 psi for a clean filter), then it may be time to backwash your filter. If you are using a cartridge filter, then you will need to clean your filter cartridge.
Clean the Skimmer Basket
Frequency: 1-2 times per week
Cleaning the skimmer and pump baskets regularly is important to the overall maintenance of your swimming pool. Clogged baskets make your pump work harder to try to cycle the water. This can decrease the life and stress the seals in your pump. Additionally, critters like frogs can get stuck in your skimmer, so you will want to make sure those are removed in a timely manner as well. We suggest cleaning your skimmer once or twice a week depending on how often you use it.
To clean the skimmer basket, simply turn off your pool pump and empty the removable basket under the skimmer lid, then replace.
Every once in a while, you should also clean out the pump basket on your pool pump. You don’t have to do this as often since the skimmer catches most of the debris.
Angle the Jets
Another easy adjustment to make is to make sure your pool jets are pointing away from your skimmer so that your water cycles in a circle. This will encourage the pool water to rotate and make it easier for your skimmer to get rid of debris. It also helps to angle the jets downward so that the bottom of the pool gets circulation as well. If there are any parts of the pool that struggle to get water, most commonly the around the steps, ladders, crevices, and corners of your pool, you can angle towards these areas too.
Frequency: Vacuum once a week. Brush and Skim once per day.
The next step in the trifecta of pool maintenance is cleaning which comprises brushing your pool, skimming the debris off the top, and vacuuming the pool. Manual maintenance is a normal part of pool ownership unless you own a robotic pool cleaner which will do it for you.
Scrubbing the walls with a pool brush pool prevents algae, staining, and scaling, especially around “dead areas” such as steps, ladders, crevices, and below the skimmer.
Skimming the surface of the water with a net or leaf rake removes large debris. This debris is unattractive to swimmers and can fall to the bottom of your pool where it can leave stains.
Vacuuming your pool is another essential part of removing debris that can reduce circulation and damage your pool. You can use a vacuum head, hose, and pole attached to your skimmer through a vacuum plate. Click here for a step-by-step guide to vacuuming your pool.
Frequency: Test 1-2 times per week. Shock Bi-Weekly.
Chemistry is another huge factor in keeping your water clean. When your water is properly balanced, you’re less likely to struggle with issues like cloudy water, green water, or buildup of harmful bacteria. That’s why a good testing kit is an essential for your pool maintenance toolkit.
Test Your Water & Balance Chemicals
For best results, test your water weekly. To keep things easy, opt for a test kit that will tell you if you need to add pool chemicals to maintain your water balance. Most pool supply stores and big-box retailers sell easy-to-use test kits or test strips that allow you to test your swimming pool water for the key chemicals. Here are the essential ranges to keep in mind:
- pH: Ideally, you want your pool water to have a pH of around 7.5. This is important because pH levels that are too high or too low can lead to a variety of pool maintenance issues, from equipment corrosion to increased green algae growth. See our pH guide
- Calcium hardness: Again, it’s all about balance here: Shoot for 200 – 400 ppm in a pool. When calcium hardness levels are too low, you risk damage to your pool’s plaster finish or vinyl liner. But if your pool’s calcium hardness is too high, you’ll be scraping away tough-to-remove calcium deposits. See our calcium hardness guide
- Alkalinity: You want to aim for a total alkalinity of around 120 to 150 ppm. If it’s below this range, your pool’s pH can be affected, and your pool’s surfaces are more prone to stains. If it’s on the higher side, your water can become cloudy. See our alkalinity guide
- Chlorine: Available in sticks, granules, and tablets, chlorine breaks down harmful bacteria and sanitizes your pool water. You’ll want to keep the chlorine levels stable to ensure that your pool stays clean. See our chlorine guide
- Phosphates: If your pool water is green and cloudy, it is possible that the phosphate levels in your pool are too high. Having too many phosphates in your pool can make algae growth more likely and makes it more difficult to maintain proper pool chemistry. See our phosphates guide.
Want more info? See our Pool Water Chemistry Guide.
Here are the ranges for different types of sanitizers:
- Sanitizer, chlorine 1 – 3 ppm. Higher is better. This prevents algae growth.
- Sanitizer, bromine 3-5 ppm
- Sanitizer biguanide 30-50 ppm
- Sanitizer mineral, chlorine backup .5 ppm
Shocking the Pool
Frequency: Shock every 1-2 weeks.
In addition to keeping your pool chemistry balanced, it’s also a good idea to shock your pool once every week or two. “Shocking” means you overload your water with sanitizer to kill off any bacteria, contaminants, and organic matter. For more information, learn how to shock your pool in 6 easy steps.
In general, the more you use your pool, the more often you should shock. You may also want to shock your pool after periods of heavy use or weathering in these cases:
- After an intense storm
- After a spill or unexpected contamination
- After an algae breakout
If you follow these basic steps, you will be on your way to maintaining a crystal-clear pool and avoiding problematic algae growth. The key is establishing a routine and taking early action if you notice discoloration, cloudy water, scaling, or other signs of trouble. And if you ever find the responsibilities overwhelming, a Pool Service Professional can take care of your pool for you. For a reasonable price, they’ll visit your house every one or two weeks and take care of all the of this stuff for you!
We hope this guide has made your life just a little easier, see our related maintenance articles or use our search if you have more questions!